FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #433 | Rush Hour In Taipei Is NOT Like It Is In Vancouver

In Taiwan’s Taipei City, the morning rush hour across Taipei Bridge appears to be as smoothly mesmerizing as it is unfathomably insane. If the calm is typical, it really puts the peak-time chaos of entering/exiting Vancouver into embarrassing perspective. It would be a fascinating thing to watch our many road/roid raging morning commuters try to merge with such a calm, purposeful throng. There would likely be casualties, so it’s for the best that our respective road systems don’t connect.

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FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #432 | The Unbelievable Story Of India’s “Forest Man”

(via) Hats off to Toronto-based filmmaker William McMaster for sharing such an fascinating and inspiring story.

Since the 1970′s Majuli islander Jadav Payeng has been planting trees in order to save his island. To date he has single handedly planted a forest larger than Central Park NYC. His forest has transformed what was once a barren wasteland into a lush oasis. Humble yet passionate and philosophical about his work. Payeng takes us on a journey into his incredible forest…

Payeng’s forest is now populated by a wide range of animals, among them deer, elephant, rhino, and tigers. Money quote: “There are no monsters in nature except for humans”.

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FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #431 | Kama Sutra-Inspired Art Depicting Police Brutality

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(via) These posters were designed by Brazilians Gabriel Morais, Renato Botelho and Bruno Pereira so they could raise awareness about police violence during peaceful street protests. Using the original sexual positions of the Kama Sutra as a guide, the images show demonstrators in the midst of being physically abused by police.

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FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #430 | How To Make Sweet Tunes In A Foodie Paradise

(via) San Francisco musician Edgar Camago recorded sounds at several foodie magnets (Tartine, Craftsman & Wolves, Ritual, etc) in the city’s super tasty Mission District and incorporated them into a song dedicated to their deliciousness.

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FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #429 | How To Make Good Hunting Blowpipes In Borneo

(via) “Only a few elders of Borneo’s Penan tribe still know how to make their unique hunting tool, the blowpipe. Balan is the last person in his village who practices the dying craft.”

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FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #428 | In The Congo, Making Soccer Balls From Trash

(via The New York Times): “As soon as I saw a photograph of an African soccer ball, stitched together from old rags in the geometric patterns so familiar to us, I wanted to tell its story. And so last July my filmmaking crew traveled to a village outside of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where we shot this Op-Doc. Although the country did not qualify for the World Cup, people there – as in most of Africa – are mad about soccer. They play it everywhere. And because soccer balls like the ones common on American fields are a rarity in much of Africa, the sport is often played with homemade balls, like the one in this video.” – director Jerome Thélia.

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FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #426 | New “Napkin Table” Tackles Picnic Blanket, Fails

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(via) Michael Jan, an industrial design graduate from Taiwan’s Tunghai University, is getting a lot of attention for his “Napkin Table” innovation. It’s a shared bib that, when fastened around the necks of two inexplicably willing participants, creates a makeshift table and forces the wearers into rigid postures. We congratulate Jan on his surprising graduation, and wish his converts both a hearty bon appetit and a very persistent wasp who understands the concept of schadenfreude.

EVERY COOL THING WE WANT

FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #425 | On Phobos & Deimos, The Two Martian Moons

“The Moons of Mars Explained — Phobos & Deimos” is a pretty self-explanatory short video about the past, present, and future of the two, potato-shaped (and ultimately doomed) moons of Mars. It was created by the science nerds at Munich-based Kurzgesagt.

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FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #424 | What Venice Would Look Like With Frozen Canals

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(via) Combining a mix of photographs with some serious editing savvy, photographer Robert Jahns created a convincing set of images depicting the city of Venice with its famous canals frozen solid. He posted one of the pictures to Twitter two months ago and it went viral (before being debunked as a fake two days later). Pliable ice sheets formed on the canals back in 2012 for the first time in two decades, but the picturesque waterways have never frozen completely solid, as imagined so invitingly (for skating) above.

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FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #423 | On Old Bombs And Shaking Hands Like A Goof

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Monsieur, you’re totally doing it wrong: The President of France, François Hollande, needs a remedial course in shaking world leaders’ hands.

Enjoy the sunny day in Vancouver and be glad that we aren’t in Chicago, New York, Boston, or anywhere else in the wintry wrath path of the storm the Weather Channel is now calling Hercules. Side bonus: the ice and snow and low visibility makes Niagara Falls look much cooler. Side side bonus: ditto the cover of The New Yorker. Side side side bonus: these snow-shovelling nipples.

New film asks if backpackers are destroying the world (trailer).

We’ve always liked Kentucky, but it’s about to get even better: “On February 4, Bill Nye “The Science Guy” will debate Ken Ham, Creation Museum founder and Answers In Genesis president/CEO, at The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky.” Advantage: Nye.

World War II is still killing people in Germany.

The first day of retail marijuana sales in the state of Colorado – where the use/sale of recreational weed is now legal – exceeded $1 million. You don’t say!

The origins story of Carl Sagan’s awesome humanity communications plaque on the Pioneer 10 spacecraft, which was the first ever man-made object to leave the solar system.

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FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #422 | New Unpublished Stories By JD Salinger Leaked

November 28, 2013 

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A few weeks ago I watched a fascinating documentary about the reclusive American writer, J.D. Salinger (he of The Catcher In The Rye fame). The very end of the film was a shocker for me (watch the trailer above), because it came with the revelation that Salinger, who died in 2010, had never stopped writing (even though he hadn’t published a work since 1965), and that he had left instructions for five hitherto unknown new books of his to be released between 2015 and 2020. These include a World War II novel (Salinger was a veteran) and a sequel to The Catcher In The Rye.

As we await those diamonds to drop, there are other infamous Salinger works that have been known to exist but have stayed unpublished. Several of these have long been in possession of the Princeton Library, with Salinger stipulating that they couldn’t be published until 50 years after his death.

Which brings us to today’s shocking news. The library’s security was just breached and a manuscript – Three Stories – has been leaked to an invite-only file-sharing site. It has since found its way to the public net and pirated “first edition” copies are already being uploaded to eBay. Read it and weep.

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FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #421 | On Pepper Spraying To Collect A Pay Cheque

October 25, 2013 

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It was nearly two years ago when UC Davis policeman Lt. John Pike calmly walked down a line of prone, peacefully protesting students and pepper sprayed each one of them in the face like he was refreshing so many hydrangeas on a Sunday morning. Well, he’s just received over $38,000 in worker’s compensation for the suffering that followed his actions (the poor dear received a lot of angry emails). The protestors settled their lawsuit against the university for a $1 million. After paying off their lawyers, each of them received $30,000, less than the “traumatized” Pike. Go justice!

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FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #420 | On Pizza Cocktails And Blowing Up On The TV

October 14, 2013 

Icy veins of the day: Syrian state TV was in the midst of interviewing political analyst Hussam Shuaib yesterday when two huge car bombs went off within seconds of eachother, nearly blowing him out of his chair (see above). His reaction? “Please continue your question…”

Terribly fascinating: a day in the life of an American drone pilot.

The pizza cocktail, aka the latest death knell of Western Civilisation, sounds loud and clear in Pasadena, California. It’s “a scarily accurate drink that tastes as if your slice jumped into a Vitamix with a bottle of vodka. Tomato water, basil-infused vodka, ghost pepper–infused vodka, porcini powder and muddled basil are shaken together and topped with a Parmesan and mozzarella foam.” Shudder.

Brand-tweaking: How the The New Yorker went about getting a typeface upgrade.

It’s a huge surprise that gamers are doing some heinous things in the new GTA V, said nobody ever. Our favourite: “Shit happens, bro.”

Inside architect Norman Foster’s gorgeous, futuristic Philologische Bibliothek library in Berlin.

Schadenfreude of the day: Apple invites Blackberry workers to recruitment party.

This is what happens when the world’s most famous street artist, Banksy, hires an old man to sell his works – about $1 million worth of them – for $60 apiece from an unannounced, unmarked stall outside Central Park? Total sales for the day: $420. Estimated value of said sales: $225,000. When asked to comment, every New Yorker said “Go the fuck back to England you Limey jerk.”

FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE BRIEF #419 | On Fake Elections & Especially Lonely Planets

October 10, 2013 

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So the presidential election went down in Azerbaijan yesterday, but before the people even woke up to cast their ballots, the country’s Central Election Commission accidentally released the “results”. President Ilham Aliyev, who succeeded his dictator daddy President Heydar Aliye in 2003, won in a landslide “decision” with 72% of the vote. After excusing for the mishap, the embarrassed Election Commission raised Aliyev’s vote total to 80% like the gentlemen they are. True story.

The most curious exo-planet imaginable has just been discovered by an international team of astronomers (rendering shown above). What makes planet “PSO J318.5-22″ so fascinating isn’t that it’s six times the mass of Jupiter (that’s effing huge) or that it has a woefully unimaginative name, but rather that it’s not orbiting a star. It’s just floating out there, 80 light-years away from Earth, all alone, the first known “Lonely Planet” in a universe that doesn’t care.

Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has been convicted of 24 federal charges – you know, racketeering, extortion…the usual – and sentenced to 28 years in prison. Meanwhile, our Mayor walks free after asking “Which is better, Jazz or Jay Z?”

Sunscreen alert: In a new report cited by The New York Times, scientists say that by 2047, the world’s coldest years could be hotter than than hottest years of the past. Think about that for a moment…

Biblioporn in The New Yorker: Paris, City Of Bookstores. “Everywhere in the world may look more and more like everywhere else, but there are still a few proudly Gallic institutions that you can count on spotting in any city or town in France: cafés that thrive in spite of Starbucks, bakeries with their total indifference to things gluten-free, tabacs that keep hanging on as smokers turn to e-cigarettes. Most pleasing of all, in this age of Amazon, are the independent bookstores—around two thousand five hundred of them, all told.”

A group of major Japanese architects are rallying against Zaha Hadid’s design for Tokyo’s massive 2020 Olympic Stadium, which begs the question: where were our architects when Yaletown, False Creek and Coal Harbour were re-built?

“The Art of Improbable Coincidence” – some phenomenal travel and street photography by Mumbai-based Maciej Dakowicz. Bonus: the computer science PhD turned professional wanderer has one of the best Flickr collections – 5,500+ images – ever amassed.

And finally, here are some notes on possible endgames for the government shutdown in the USA. The American public’s attitude remains unchanged.

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